In my last blog, I tried to give readers a sense of how much we don’t know about what is being learned, and how our assessment system of learning settles for superficial answers:
“For in our obsession of real and tangible objects of learning that are easy to evaluate and build an assessment for, we miss the real depth of teaching and learning revealed in our movement of our eyes that select these objects, the outcome of which may well mean that teaching and learning are a dynamic process of our choosing, in our time, at our will, and for us to see. Wholly made up from our minds is the real learning and our current system of education is simply a look into the gateway of learning. The tree outside the columned-hall of learning is actually the art we create for our learning, and the larger, deeper learning awaits our creation, as we peer into the columned building where so much more exists because we say so” (Southworth, EdSpeak blog, December 12, 2022)
The Columned Building
I have been so struck by the beauty of the columns on the outside of buildings, and especially by the strength of their support for the building they front, and the human activity it houses. So when I read that teachers are saying, “quiet quitting is happening at my school,” and, “I can’t afford to be a teacher anymore,” and even more sad, “My student threatened to shoot up the school, so I resigned. Everyone is mad at me” (Education Week, November 30, 2022), I become confused, angry and depressed. Especially at this sacred time of year, we need to rally our support for education as it is—and then we need to change it quite radically for what it should become. The Columns still guard our most important human activity, but they need to reveal our intention to rebuild the experience behind them, to do less guarding and more revealing, of our gateways to learning.
Instead of offering a traditional K-12 educational system that can only get a third of students to read proficiently on grade level by 4th grade, why not re-invent our schools as dynamic places for experiential learning, creative problem solving, and in depth learning? Why not introduce and support brain development at a level we wish was the outcome from our studies—intellectual focus, framing of problems, and problem solving? What if school actually attracted children to attend at their own will, as if there was nothing better to do, as if this was the only place to be?
Models for Gateways to Learning
And at this point I usually say let’s do this for everyone and actually accomplish what a universal education was set up to do—educate one and all. But I feel it is important to note that I am not calling for a gradual shift, a reform of what has been the form of education, but rather a radical change in how we conduct education. It is important to me to construct a scientifically valid and reliable model for the future of schooling. That model has to be rigorous, equitable, fair, secure and so very engaging. I feel it is important to re-state how little we know about how students learn and teachers teach. This is not to say that we have not made a good go of it so far, we have, but it is to say that we know so little about how students learn. Our assumptions about how to set up public education have failed to keep up with the glimpses we now have through the gateway to learning. Through science and experience we now know that the mind is much more powerful than we can currently educate for…it can read and remember, but it can also read, remember, learn, create and watch itself doing all of that—it not only knows, it knows it knows. Our minds can also connect with other minds in ways that are so powerful…for example, we can read and imagine ourselves doing something in the future that actually shows that connection with the text we read when we were young.
Learning is What We See
As I said above, learning is not a system we set up for others, but rather, “Wholly made up from our minds is the real learning.” What we see has to be encouraged to see through the current gates of learning, into new gateways for learning, a dynamic process for understanding ourselves and the world we live in.